In Part 1 of this blog , you have grasped the idea that neither you nor your partner, but certain demons are to blame for the problems in your relationship. Now you can take action to tame those demons. Learning how to tame the demons between you and your partner is a valuable skill . This is because research on emotionally focused couples therapy shows that it strengthens the romantic bond between partners. If you are willing to hop on the journey of true long-lasting love, hear and try these 7 steps out:
- Stop the game: Whether it is “find the bad guy”, “the polka protest”, or “flight and freeze”. The first step in taming the demons is recognizing that a demon dialogue has emerged between you and your beloved and stopping it on purpose. You can do this by drawing the attention of your partner to the fact that you are once again trapped in a toxic dynamic and the situation is helping neither of you.
- Own your actions: Now that you stopped the game and prevented the conflict from further escalation, take a step back and objectively analyse your actions. What exactly did you do or say that turned an everyday chat into a demon dialogue? What did your partner do or say? Can you notice the link between them?
- Own your emotions: Take the focus off of how your partner has let you down and talk about the emotions behind your words and actions. Was it anger or disappointment that was feeding your accusations? Did your partner poke a vulnerable spot during your argument? It is much easier for your partner to empathize with you when you talk about your experience rather than criticize them.
- Accept that you affect your partner’s emotions: Recognize that your actions elicit certain emotions in your partner, which then makes them act in ways that further feed your demon. Do you notice that whenever you criticize your partner, they react in a more heated way? Do they seem to withdraw even more when you nag about how disconnected you two are? Do you feel that they turn away from you when you hold yourself back? The reason why demon dialogues are so tricky is that they sustain cycles in which one partner’s actions directly affect the other.
- Inquire about your partner’s deeper feelings: It may be difficult at first but if you manage to free yourself from the heat of the conflict and see the big picture, you may notice that there are deeper, more vulnerable feelings underneath what your partner is displaying. Your partner may be blazing with anger on the surface but that is most likely the result of their fear of losing you for example. When you gently ask what lies at the core of their uneasiness, your partner may disclose such intimate feelings that can remind you of how much they actually care about you.
- Share your deeper feelings: Step 5 applies to you too. Take a moment to reflect on and share the most authentic feelings that were triggered by the conflict with your partner. Is it sadness, shame, or fear of losing them? Being vulnerable with your partner may be more difficult when compared to raging at them. If you manage to open up, you will likely welcome such a connection and mutual understanding that can take your relationship to the next level of intimacy.
- Stand together: Succeeding the above-mentioned steps will likely help you to build a strong foundation on which you can stand with your partner. You are likely able to see that it is not your partner who is the enemy, but the demon in between. It is now time to stand together and practice these steps over and over whenever a demon crawls into your relationship.
Making romantic relationships work requires a lot of effort and courage, but if we give what it takes, we are rewarded with the most satisfying prize: a partnership for life in which we are understood, cared for, and loved. Practicing these steps has the potential to transform your relationship but note that if you feel like it is not enough, working with a couple therapist may be what you need.
If you think that you can benefit from professional help on this issue, feel free to book an appointment here.
Dilek Demiray is an intern at Willingness. She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and she is currently completing her master’s degree in Clinical Psychology. As an aspiring psychotherapist, she is interested in cognitive-behavioural and systemic therapies.
Read Part 1 of ‘The Demons Between Us’ here.
Johnson, S. M. (2008). Hold me tight: Seven conversations for a lifetime of love. Little, Brown Spark.